Perhaps it is because we live in a technological age. Around us there is constant technical progress, and that shapes our thinking about everything. We believe very passionately in progress. All the lines go upwards. In a piece of very muddled thinking, we absorb at one and the same time the idea that progress is inevitable and the pressure that says we must make progress. We are unable to be content with things the way they were. Everything has to be bigger, better, stronger, faster. We need more, we need improvement, we need power, we need efficiency. That is who we are.
It is no surprise that this thinking affects the Church, and within it individual Christians. Whether its our own walk with God or the shape of our Sunday services, we are constantly evaluating. How do we grow? How do we improve? How do we exert more influence or just become more robust? How we do become more slick and get more done?
Are we killing ourselves, spiritually, with monitoring, planning, changing?
Here is the thing: the Best of us - the only one of us who could be called in any unqualified sense Good - went to death on a cross. In so doing, he shut the door for ever to bigger, better, stronger, faster. He chose the way of the remnant, the way of the failure, the way of the weak, the way of delay and obstruction. We cannot be his disciples and walk the road of improvement. We cannot follow him on the track of high performance. He just didn't walk those roads.
The tragic thing is that we struggle to hear this as gospel. We are so immersed in the ways of bigger, better, stronger, faster that closing the door on these things feels hard. We are being forbidden, prevented. What we can't see is that this is liberation. We must not walk the way of performance and technique, but that means we need not do so. It is not required of us, either in our individual spiritual lives or our community life as Christians, to perform. We don't need to be on the curve, let alone ahead of it.
The gospel - the way of Christ - wins for us the ability to be quiet, the permission to be slow, the precious and vital space to fail and be picked up again. This is where life happens, ironically: on the long and winding road of the cross.